The Cowboys gave Melton, who is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a $1 million signing bonus as part of the deal he agreed to Tuesday night with a $1.25 million base salary. He can earn an extra $78,125 per week if he is on the 46-man roster, maxing out at $1.25 million. His first-year cap number at present is $1.734 million but will grow through the season each week he is on the gameday roster.
The kicker in the deal comes in 2015 when he would earn a fully guaranteed $9 million base salary. The base salaries in 2016-17 are $7.5 million each.
There are also $1.5 million in incentives in the deal for playing time and sacks in 2014.
The Cowboys have to exercise the option on the final three years of the deal by the first day of the 2015 league year. If they don't, then they would have $750,000 in dead money on the cap and Melton will be an unrestricted free agent. If they do, then Melton's cap number in 2015 would be $9.25 million, which the Cowboys could easily restructure to create salary-cap room.
The Cowboys have a deal that is the ultimate "prove it," concept. If Melton plays like he did in 2012 when he earned Pro Bowl honors, then he will be paid. If he doesn't, then the Cowboys maintain financial flexibility.
"I didn't have to be talked into [the contract] at all," Melton said. "I knew what was out there. The ACL scares a lot of teams and a lot of people. You can come back great from it. That's something that I believe I can do. Just have to buckle down and get physically and mentally ready and train my butt off just to be ready to go."